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Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 02/24/2011

Army general in Afghanistan accused of ordering psychological tactics on members of Congress

By Felicia Sonmez

Updated: 5:10 p.m.

A U.S. Army general in Afghanistan is accused of ordering soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting members of Congress into providing more troops and funding for the war, according to a new report in Rolling Stone magazine.

The article has prompted the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to order an investigation. Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday that he ordered the probe "to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the issue."

Several lawmakers who allegedly had been targeted released statements calling the allegations "disturbing" but did not indicate whether they had been aware of any "psy-ops" effort.

The allegations were outlined in a Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings, whose June profile revealing disparaging remarks made by retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal about members of the Obama administration ended McChrystal's military career.

In the new Rolling Stone article, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes said that he was ordered by Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops, to perform psychological operations on visiting VIPs. When he refused, he was officially reprimanded.

Holmes said his unit was repeatedly pressured for four months to assess how best to get Caldwell's message across to a host of visitors, including the members of Congress, Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan, the German interior minister and a host of influential think tank analysts.

Caldwell sent a statement to Rolling Stone that "categorically denies the assertion that the command used an Information Operations Cell to influence Distinguished Visitors." The request was made by the command of William Caldwell, the lieutenant general who allegedly ordered the illegal "psychological operations" on members of Congress and other VIPs.

On Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one of the alleged psy-ops targets, urged the Pentagon to investigate the allegations. He said in a statement that he was "confident that the chain of command will review any allegation that information operations have been improperly used in Afghanistan."

Other lawmakers allegedly targeted by the program were Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.); and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) of the House Appropriations Committee.

In his statement, Levin also reaffirmed his commitment to to funding the Afghanistan war effort. He did not indicate whether he had been aware of any alleged psy-ops effort.

"For years, I have strongly and repeatedly advocated for building up Afghan military capability because I believe only the Afghans can truly secure their nation's future," Levin said. "I have never needed any convincing on this point. Quite the opposite, my efforts have been aimed at convincing others of the need for larger, more capable Afghan security forces, and that we and NATO should send more trainers to Afghanistan, rather than more combat troops."

The Rolling Stone article noted that Levin had been "among the biggest boosters" of the Army's request last month for $2 billion to train an additional 70,000 Afghan troops.

Franken issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he had been briefed on the war by Caldwell and several others on a trip to Afghanistan in January 2010.

"Along with Senator Carl Levin, I participated in a CODEL and made a visit to Kabul in January 2010, during which time Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, Commander, NATO Training Mission -- Afghanistan, and several others briefed me on the progress being made in the country," Franken said. "While the briefings provided me with a helpful update on what was happening on the ground, I knew that I would have to crosscheck their assessment by talking to other military officials, diplomatic officials, outside experts and troops in the field, and I always raise skeptical questions when discussing this topic."

Franken noted that while the trip was his first to Afghanistan as a senator, it was his fifth to the country since the start of the war. He said he has "learned that to get a clear sense of what's happening on the ground you have to talk to everyone from privates to generals."

"My perspective on the effort in Afghanistan is the product of countless face-to-face meetings with soldiers and marines, Pentagon officials, State Department officials, outside experts and my constituents in Minnesota, as well as extensive review of reports and classified material," Franken said.

Reed told MSNBC Thursday that the accusations were "very serious and disturbing" and that the Pentagon should investigate.

Later Thursday, Reed issued a lengthy statement in which he emphasized that he has traveled to Afghanistan 11 times since the war began and tries to "cast a wide net" and gather information from multiple sources whenever he visits the country.

"Having grown up as a young Army officer in the Vietnam era, I have an instinctual notion that you must carefully evaluate what anyone says, because there are always people with institutional stakes or people who may try to advance their own position," Reed said. He concluded that "ultimately, we need to increase the capacity of the Afghan government to build a stable Afghanistan where the Afghan people, not the Taliban or terrorists, control their future."

Israel issued a statement late Thursday praising Petraeus's announcement that he would launch an investigation.

"General Petraeus did the right thing by ordering an investigation into this matter," Israel said. "I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan eight times and have always been proud to meet with our troops serving on the front lines."

McCain's office declined to comment on the article.

-- Staff writers Paul Kane and Melissa Bell contributed to this report.

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 24, 2011; 12:34 PM ET
 
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Comments

I think its true! Watch C-SPAN hearings about Afghanistan and all the congressmen seem to stare off into space as if in a hypnotic trance!

Posted by: SoCal | February 24, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It looks like they finally conceed that they are all prosecutable, and are looking for the nutty ticket as a defense.
If we now know they are nutty, lets cut them all loose for it, and hold a new election with fresh faces.
Headlines that read "New Elections Held For Replacement Of Nutty House and Senate" would finally be accurate ones..

Posted by: dottydo | February 24, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Reed old MSNBC Thursday that the accusations were "very serious and disturbing" and that the Pentagon should investigate.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
ReAd old?

or Reed told?

Posted by: dottydo | February 24, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

NOT news! The Pentagon has been using these tactics on Congress and the American people for decades! Some call these PsyOps, "Brainwashing." Another way to achieve "Brainwashing," is to fill half open & questioning minds with repetitive lies. Dumbness AND madness can be manufactured and manipulated by clever operatives. And, this is "before" fox news(sic) gets in on the act.

Posted by: phoenix3 | February 24, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

All Glory to Hypnotoad?

Posted by: Falling4Ever | February 24, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but I've read this three times and I still don't know what "psychological operations" entails. Hypnotic suggestions? Subliminal emails? Psychic powers? I guess the writer assumes I'll look it up on wikipedia?

Posted by: P-Funk2002 | February 24, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The majority of Americans are gullible to these types of measures. We are in Afganistan not because of terror but rare earth materials.

Posted by: waterboard | February 24, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse


Maybe Congressman woo woo Wu has had some psyops done on him to, that would explain his paranoid rants against his own supporters, the fact his campaign staff all quit after the election, and that Wu was caught sneaking into a restricted airport area and soliciting votes from travellers getting of their airplanes.

Posted by: screwjob23 | February 24, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but if these decision-makers had been manipulated (or brain washed) they wouldn't know it, would they? Although I wouldn't put anything past the war-mongering military who want to keep themselves relevant, in effect the entire population of the US has been psycho-oped into senseless paranoia: we are in imminent danger from terrorists under every bed. Why else would we have a military budget that is equal to all other nations in the world combined?

Posted by: gm2525 | February 24, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I guess turnabout ISN'T fair play.
It's ok for they to try to feed us bullcrap to get what they want, but don't do it to them.

Posted by: steves5 | February 24, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse


"Targeted Senator" in headline = slanted value judgement by WaPo hack Felicia Sonmez.

Leftist Dim Carl Levin claims he was targeted. Leftist WaPo hack Sonmez chooses up teams and takes as a matter of faith she buys into Levin's outlandish claim.

Posted by: screwjob24 | February 24, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm rolling on the floor laughing! Psycho-Ops on this collection of morons? Especially, McCain. He has been a mental case for years. Does anyone actually believe the Army has anyone good enough to make McCain think? Sorry Army this is a no go as you had nothing to work with.

Posted by: fare777 | February 24, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Many of our represetatives have never been in the military and fewer still in combat. I would think that they would be smart enough know when they're being set up and lied to. But then, most of America bought the yarn. Sending our military to war has been reduced to a TV commercial.

Posted by: ANNA2 | February 24, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Big deal, we are all subjected to Psychops every time we turn ont the TV, listen to a campaign speech or read a magazine. Call it marketing and it sounds much less malevolent.

Posted by: dgb100 | February 24, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Outside the military this is known as PR, or, as dgb100 points out, marketing.

Posted by: scientist1 | February 24, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

That's the end of Lt Col Holmes' career. The army doesn't like whistle-blowers.

The army sometimes loses sight of its mission, which is to serve, and execute the policy of the US, and instead, begins trying to control those who help make that policy. It's not the only government agency at fault in that respect.

Posted by: samsara15 | February 24, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

The War on Terror has never been personal, it's just business.. It's far to big a business to be determined by whether it's winnable, whether it was a good idea in the first place and how much it costs. So plainly you can't leave important decisions like how to get unlimited funds flowing to the military, intelligence, contractors and the Afghan government to the vagaries of democratically-elected representatives. What would that do to the bottom lines of Raytheon, Northrop-Grumann, Halliburton, the Xe-Blackwater mercenary collective, etc? It's about time this country realised that in a globalized world, one of the biggest and most important markets is the war market - how can a responsible administration "watch a country end a war due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for voters to be left to decide for themselves."

Posted by: Jon61 | February 24, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Wait, Rolling Stone is still around?

Its called marketing boneheads. You should try it.

Posted by: luca_20009 | February 24, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse


A general gave a Powerpoint presentation and Levin called it psyops.

Hilarious leftist Dims


Posted by: screwjob24 | February 24, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Could not have been very effective, as those subject to a pysops have to have some degree of intelligence. Proving once again that stupid cannot be fixed.
Would have been better off using MSNBC, CNN, WAPO or NY Times.

Posted by: NeoConVeteran | February 24, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"The Chair recognizes the honorable gentleman from Arizona."

McCain: "I thank you, Mr. Chairman. The current DoD estimates contain a great deal of wa-AAHHH... a great deal of wa-AAHHs...excuse me, Mr. Chairman (takes a sip of water and a deep breath) What I meant to say was that Congress should fully fund the current request from the DoD without any cuts whatsoever. General Caldwell did not influence my decision in any way. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield the balance of my time."

Posted by: saulpaulus | February 24, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"The Chair recognizes the honorable gentleman from Arizona."

McCain: "I thank you, Mr. Chairman. The current DoD estimates contain a great deal of wa-AAHHH... a great deal of wa-AAHHs...excuse me, Mr. Chairman (takes a sip of water and a deep breath) What I meant to say was that Congress should fully fund the current request from the DoD without any cuts whatsoever. General Caldwell did not influence my decision in any way. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield the balance of my time."

Posted by: saulpaulus | February 24, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The Pentagon will investigate the Army?

After 30+ years as a civilian employee of Dept. of the Army I can tell you what the result will be: pure whitewash (remember Pat Tilman?).

This needs INDEPENDENT investigation.

Posted by: LHHeadJr | February 24, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

This is the "standing army" Washington warned about, 21st Century globalized version.

Not that Ike missed the point with his warnings about the "military industrial complex."

Amazing they didn't contract-out the psy-ops to mental mercenaries.

Posted by: tmorgan2008 | February 24, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Better also investigate whether this was performed on President Obama.
There must be some good reason for his continuous incoherent behavior!

Posted by: rteske | February 24, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Talk about nonsense!! The military has a point of view - right or wrong - and they try to get others to see things their way! Talk about breaking news. Of course the braindead members of Congress never, never engage in spin control. No, not them. Of course, when we have the Weeper of the House stating that it's 'not his job to tell people what to think'it was only logical that the minions in congress would take umbrage if some one tried to influence them. I guess this means that to prove that they are truly independent and capable of thinking for themselves all members of congress will now refuse all campaign contributions from lobbyists and others seeking to influence them: after all they wouldn't want to be victims of brainwashing - or is it money laundering?

Posted by: Avoicefromthewilderness | February 24, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Heck. The Marines have been "psyc-oping" Congress and the public from WWII on. They've been accused of having a photographer with every platoon. So what's new? How many charities manipulate potential donors? I don't see anything wrong here. Even Durbin notes that he's the biggest supporter of the program so it would't take any psyc-oping to get to him.

Posted by: rlaraia | February 24, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Heck. The Marines have been "psyc-oping" Congress and the public from WWII on. They've been accused of having a photographer with every platoon. So what's new? How many charities manipulate potential donors? I don't see anything wrong here. Even Durbin notes that he's the biggest supporter of the program so it would't take any psyc-oping to get to him.

Posted by: rlaraia | February 24, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

i don't know about the hocus pocus psychological garbage, we get enough of that on the news, but i think every congressman and president and cabinent member should be required to take the MMPI-2. The results do not have to be made public other than statisitical analysis of the results. I would find it interesting. My hypothesis would be high lie scales, high faking good, and we'd find a bunch of serious personality disorders. I think it would be fun too, during debates, the politicians be connected to polygraph machines, connected to a lie-o-meter, that those watching, could have access to. of course, lie detectors are inconclusive, but it would be fun. as a kid, i had to take a polygraph test to work at a convenience store, wonder why we don't require it for the most powerful political positions we have in the United States? I know, they are so honest, we should believe everything they say. silly me.

Posted by: mhalligan83 | February 24, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

RUMSFIELD LIVES!

Posted by: JONWINDY | February 24, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

McSame refused to comment. No doubt they pulled the wool over his eyes. Oh Well! so did the "LIPSTICK".

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | February 24, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I read the article, and I still don't know what psy-ops means or exactly what was done in the psy-ops program in Afghanistan.

PS my spell checker on the computer never heard of psy-ops either.

Posted by: janye1 | February 24, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

If "psychological operations" made McCain flip flop his way all the way to being the most conservative Republican in the Senate then it was a crime of the highest order. From "maverick" to tool in two short years. Go figure.

Why don't these techniques work on any of our enemies? Are they too smart or maybe they have more integrity?

Posted by: FoundingMother | February 24, 2011 10:10 PM | Report abuse


The U.S. Army back in the early 50's did many experiments with drug, including LSD. Dr. Timothy Leary was in charge of this operation.

Posted by: nalaegral | February 24, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Makes you wonder doesn't it, with all that is happening in the Arab world and the Military background of Egypt. Mubarak and Sadat before him were military. The military still holds all the cards. When you consider the billions the U.S. has poured into Egypt and many other countries to prop up regimes. It makes you wonder how powerful the military "industrial complex" is in the U.S. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes a lot of flak for its lobbying of government but the military has the Pentagon complex sitting just down the road and it wields a lot more influence in Washington than the Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by: berneredfeather | February 24, 2011 11:32 PM | Report abuse

So,I find it incredible that so many people
all over the USA still have not be able to
figure out,what many of us,here in Arizona
have already known for several years that
Senator Amnesty John McCain is as whacko as
they come and therefore McCain would be totally a wasted target for any US Army
psychological warfare tactics that they might wish to try on McCain. And,besides the North Vietnamese already brainwashed
him for several years while he was a POW
in the Hanoi Hilton as well.

Posted by: carleen09 | February 25, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the Senator is just getting too old and should retire ........ do we really need wreak minded people like him, heck there was not even money involved!!

All their other decisions are swayed by money and greed.

Posted by: bkarpus | February 25, 2011 6:44 AM | Report abuse

and i thought it was me that thought these senators and congressmen and women needed to be psycho-analyzed.tell them to get out in the real world with the rest of the people of this country.

Posted by: SISSD1 | February 25, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Could it be possible that some military people do not want the war to end? For centuries Generals have reveled in the conduct of war. Today is no different. After all no general is likely to see promotions, honor or their name in the history books without being at the forefront.
General Patton boasted about how much he loved war, the excitement, the attention and dangers all were his rush and reason to live. Plus his ticket to promotion , -and the history book thing. Without wars generals are religated to a boring existance at some outpost reviewing troops and administrative tasks, or retirment via being pased over for promotion.
It doesn,t suprise me if some generals would resort to PR tactics with visiting politicians,to keep events moving for them.

Posted by: cliffc1 | February 25, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

"The Chair recognizes the honorable gentleman from Arizona."

McCain: "I thank you, Mr. Chairman. The current DoD estimates contain a great deal of wa-AAHHH... a great deal of wa-AAHHs...excuse me, Mr. Chairman (takes a sip of water and a deep breath) What I meant to say was that Congress should fully fund the current request from the DoD without any cuts whatsoever. General Caldwell did not influence my decision in any way. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield the balance of my time."

Posted by: saulpaulus
---------------------------------
saulpaulus - you've posted the best one I've ever read!!! And you must have been stationed at Ft. Bragg (where they like to use their psyops on the local pop).

Posted by: Sherry91 | February 25, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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